Microsoft declared a monopoly

According to judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, Microsoft indeed has a monopoly in the market for computer operating systems. Furthermore, this monopoly has harmed consumers - and the US government should prepare remedies that may range from a forced change in Microsoft's business practices to splitting the company's operating systems and applications group.

Jackson posted on a federal government Web site his findings of fact in the antitrust case by the US department of justice and 19 state attorneys general. Jackson bases his findings on the evidence presented during a trial that began October 19, 1998 and was based on a suit filed in May 1998.

The justice department and the 19 states that joined the lawsuit accuse Microsoft of using a monopoly position in the market for PC operating systems to strangle competition and gain a foothold in other markets. Microsoft vehemently denies the accusation and says that competition thrives in the computer industry.

The judge's ruling as to whether Microsoft is guilty of illegal and anti-competitive practices will come later, as part of his legal finding, expected next year. But the findings of fact indicate whether - and how - the case will proceed.

The question of whether Microsoft is a monopoly under federal antitrust laws is a key question in the charge. Jackson's ruling indicates that he believes government lawyers brought sufficient evidence to the trial prove Microsoft is a monopoly.

Trial watchers and lawyers for both sides will also scrutinize Jackson's ruling for a hint of what he thinks should be done to level the playing field. The judge's formal order of remedies, which could include something as drastic as breakup of Microsoft, will come later, and only if Jackson finds Microsoft guilty.